I Smell Trouble: SSS Meets Buddy Bell

Our old friend Marty contacted us last week about the chance to interview former MLB manager and current Director of Operations for the White Sox Minor Leagues Buddy Bell.  There was literally no way in hell we were going to pass up such an opportunity.  Before delving into the transcript, I would like to thank Marty for setting this up and Buddy for taking the time to answer whatever questions we threw at him.  I'd have to put this interview right up there with the Kirk Champion one on my list of favorites.  Since we can't post audio, his passion might not come off as easily noticeable as it was for us on the phone.  This is a man who loves his job and cares deeply about what he gets to do.  Non-SSSers J.J. Stankevitz of Beer Leaguer and Chris Cavoto of Chicago Sports Addict also asked questions.

Jim Margalus: I'll start with Jared Mitchell.  He's had some problems since coming back from his injury.  He's had a rough start in Winston-Salem and it doesn't seem like his struggles are easing any and it actually seems like he's striking out more.  Is there a demotion to Kannapolis on the horizon or are you seeing something encouraging that's not showing up in the numbers yet?

Buddy Bell: No, there's no demotion, we haven't talked about that at all.  As a matter of fact, when we sent him to Winston-Salem we were assuming that he was going to have some struggles based on him not playing last year.  He's made some progress and Marty and I were actually talking about him earlier and the difficulty that guys like him have.  He's such a raw kind of a player, an athletic guy.  I was talking to someone the other night, he reminds me a little bit of Adam Dunn when Adam was at this stage.  He came out of Texas as a football player and didn't play a lot of baseball, so when Adam came to us when I was the farm director of the Reds he had no idea of balance and things like that and it just kind of came all of a sudden to Adam.  I wasn't there when he was in AA or AAA, but it just kind of happened over night and you pretty much expect that out of Jared.  There is progress and a lot of balance issues with him are getting better.  The one thing about him that I didn't know of was just because we haven't been around him because of his injuries is that he's so competitive.  And the problem with that is he becomes impatient with his numbers and that's gotten in the way a bit, but he plays a great center field so there's a lot of really positive stuff.  I'd tell you if i didn't think there was, but we're excited about him obviously.  We've just got to be patient with him, probably more than anyone else due to his lack of baseball experience.

JM: Is the ankle 100%?

BB: Yeah, he's starting to run good.  That was another issue because he started really tentative on it at the start of the year, which kind of affected his balance at the plate a little bit.  He's a tough, tough kid that really competes and doesn't really complain a whole lot so we don't ever really know if the ankle's bothering him a lot.  What we see is coordination and he's 100% healthy.

Mark Primiano: Obviously the Dave Wilder situation gave the organization a bit of a black eye in Latin America.  What has the front office been doing in attempts to repair our image and relationship with the region and potential prospects they could sign?

BB: Well they really haven't done a whole lot since it all happened, and I wasn't really here when this all took place.  But we just more or less have been running things as is.  We feel really good about who's been running the academy down in the Dominican, Rafael Santana.  We're in the process of expanding our scouts in Latin America and Kenny is talking to a few guys now who are not on-board just yet, but we're trying to expand that a little bit.  Other than what had happened in the last coTuple years, we've just been moving forward with what we think is best.  I think the commissioner, and not only our organization, but the commissioner as well is trying to clean up the whole situation down there.  It's not an isolated case by any means, so it's going to take a little more than just us staying on top of it to make sure these kids are handled in an honest way.

J.J. Stankevitz: Andre Rienzo has thrown 7 games this year.  He only threw 20 last year.  Do you guys have any sort of limit on him?  Is he going to throw more than 101 innings or is he going to get promoted up to Birmingham?  Is that in the works?

BB: Rienzo is a great story.  First of all he's from Brazil and they don't play a lot of baseball over there but it's getting better.  This kid is coming really quick and we have to be careful that we don't move him too quick because he still has some command issues and he tries to strike every body out.  We're trying to get him to pay more attention to getting outs earlier in the count.  But he's a very aggressive kid, he's going to throw more than 100 innings of course.  He's getting stronger, he's kind of blossomed a little later.  He's 22, most 22 year old kids are fairly mature and still growing, but Rienzo's taken a bit longer.  He's a kid with a sinker, a good changeup.  He's getting a good feel.  His instincts aren't as good as some of the kids we've gotten from the United States or the Dominican, but that will come as well.  He'll get over 100, and there's a chance that he'll get to Birmingham by the ned of the year but we've got kids like (Cameron) Bayne, (Terry) Doyle, (Hector) Santiago that are probably on a little bit fast track than he is.

JM: With Jordan Danks, the two biggest knocks have been that he doesn't hit for enough power as his frame suggested and that he struck out too much.  In the past three weeks, his power exploded and he hasn't struck out that much.  Is the improved power and contact here to stay or is he on a hot streak and you're expecting some sort of regression?

BB: Jordan Danks looks better than I've ever seen him.  He looks great.  I was just in Charlotte.  He looks better than anytime I've ever seen him.  He was one of the crown jewels in the system.  And for whatever reason, and I've got my opinions on it, he got way too much coaching in the winter and he just kept changing his approach and his set up and he didn't look like he had a feel for his own particular swing.  About a month or three weeks ago, he basically went "The hell with all this stuff" and just went after it and that's the kind of player he is.  He's just very instinctive and he looks really good.  When kids go through this kind of bad period, it affects their whole life almost.  Their dream is to reach the big leagues and they can feel it just kind of slipping away and you could see the change in him.  Now he just seems more getting after it.  So many of our kids, when they get started they get coaching when they're seven or eight years old and a lot of these kids don't do anything unless the coach tells them to do this or do that.  Our biggest issue sometimes is to get them to play a little crazy to get them away from the analytical process that goes on in their head.  With Jordan, he's pretty much simplified (it).  It's not coaching, it's not anything, it's just you've gotta get after it now.  Forget about all this other crap you've been doing, just get after it.

JS: I had the chance to talk with Tyler Flowers last year just after his May slump ended and it seems like he was maybe the product of getting too much coaching where he told me he was trying to pull it where his swing was a lot more conducive to driving the ball to the gaps.  Did you see any change in him this year in just trying to get back to what he's best at?

BB: He's trying to get there.  He hasn't made the progress that Danks has, but he's getting there.  His set up is more balanced, he's starting to buy into what we've talked about the last couple years.  He's very similar to a lot of our kids.  I think they get proper coaching, I just think they get too much of it.  And the terminology is different so it kind of conflicts with what you're hearing.  I saw him last night and he swung the bat decent last night, and we've got high hopes for him as well.

MP: If for some reason Don Cooper was ever to leave the organization, would J.R. Perdew be a leading candidate to replace him based on the strength of his work down in Birmingham?

BB: I think so.  I think there would be a pile of guys.  Coop's one of the best in the game as far as pitching coaches go.  All of these guys are pretty much Coop disciples.  Curt Hasler is tremendous.  Kirk Champion does a good job.  (Richard) Dotson (AAA pitching coach) has a great mix as far as pitching in the big leagues and also does a great job breaking deliveries down.  J.R. would be right in that group.  (Bobby) Thigpen too, Thiggy's in Winston.  We feel pretty good about the depth of our pitching coaches, but the key is talent.  We've got great coaches and a great system in terms of how we teach things and a lot of it comes from the top, from Coop and from Walk.  But it doesn't really matter if you don't have the talent and we rely on scouts for that.  But we feel pretty good about the coaching staff we have in all of our affiliates.

 

By the way, I have no problem with other sites linking to or copying and pasting these transcripts when I post them.  But I noticed that the Anthony Carter one popped up on quite a few sites with people trying to pass it off as their own work.  Don't pull that shit again.

 

JM: Dan Remenowsky, we've heard about him as a guy with so-so stuff who just gets it done and his walk and strikeout numbers are insane this year.  How encouraged are you by him and how aggressively will you advance him, like say if a bullpen spot opens up on the White Sox 25-man roster?

BB: He;s one of the guys that we talk about a lot.  He's a kid who doesn't throw 95-96 like Sergio, Infante or Omogrosso.  We talk about him because this guy throws 88-89, maybe tops out at 90 on his best day, but what we talk about all the time is that we have to get guys like that to higher levels to see if it's real or not.  He's shocked us everywhere he's been.  He was an undrafted player, went to Bristol and did well there.  We needed somebody in Great Falls, we sent him there, he ended up being the closer.  Hey, professional baseball is professional baseball, so when you're doing what he did even in Great Falls, there is something to this  There's deception there, there's something going on.  Plus he's coming up with an above average changeup.  It's realistic to think, and you don't really want to put him in a category of a Sutter or a Doug Jones who wasn't overpowering but had great secondary changes in their split and their changeup so a kid like Remenowsky who could hit a gnat in the ass on both sides of the plates to go along with some deception, there is a chance that this kid could be throwing in Chicago and that's wuite a story for an undrafted kid.  We're gonna have to figure something out right now, since he's kind of blocked off, and as long as he gets innings that's fine, but at some point we're going to have to get him to another level to see how real this really is.  But the hitters normally will tell us this.

MP: When you left the Royals back in 2007, you said that part of it was you wanted to spend more time with your family.  If you were ever offered another shot at managing a major league team, would you take it?

BB: (damn near instantly and emphatically) No.  No, and I have had unofficial talks with other people in other organizations, but no.  First of all, I like where I'm at too much and I like the people I'm working with so I'm good where I'm at.  I'm almost 60 years old, it's not that I'm too old, but when I manage I like to throw BP and hit fungoes (fungos?) and things like that but my body's kind of falling apart and I couldn't do it the way I'd want to do it.

MP: That was like the best answer I could have gotten out of you.

BB: (rewarding laughter)

JM: Speaking of the Royals, you obviously know Mark Teahen very well.  Last year he looked uncomfortable at third, with choppers eating him up.  This year is a drastic improvement, he's making almost every play that comes at him.  What is the difference between the two years?

BB: You know, I don't know this for sure but I know that he's had some injury issues in the past and I want to say his back was an issue at some point.  It just didn't look like he was getting down for balls last year, he just wasn't reacting like I had remembered him in Kansas City.  I'm pretty sure it had something to do with an injury.  It may not have been bothering him, but sometimes when you get hurt, your body just has to protect it and so you have different movements and it affects your coordination.  It didn't look like he was coordinated and I thought he was one of the most athletic kids I had been around because he could play most anywhere in the field.  I figure it was probably still an injury that hadn't passed and it affected his coordination, but this year's he's looked good to me.

Chris Covoto: You said the pitching and the hitting come from the top which is Cooper and Walker.  Do all the coaches at every level follow Cooper and Walker's leads on how they teach the game?

BB: Yeah, I mean we do things a little different because we have to be a little more fundamentally sound (in the minors).  We don't teach at the kind of levels they do in the major leagues because our kids don't necessarily know their own swings yet.  A lot of that is a problem for us because of all the coaching they got at an early age.  We try to be as fundamental and as basic as possible.  We start with their feet, their legs, their base and we go from there, which is similar to what Walk teaches.  At each level we try to teach a little more based on their own knowledge of their swing.  Our hitting guys have a great relationship with Walk.  The terminology is similar to what they use in the major leagues so that it's not complicated when they reach the major leagues.  It's very similar.  And from a pitching standpoint, Coop has been here in kind of a leadership role since '91 or '92, and all these guys have grown up with the same terminology.  Our hitting coaches do the same things as our hitting coaches, they stay pretty basic and pretty simple.  As they move up a level or two, we extend the teaching a little more than what they had at the lower levels.

JS: Is Dayan Viciedo's defense major league ready?

BB: When I heard that they were considering putting Dayan at right field, I was like "That can't be true.  This has got to be a typo".  He went down to Miami I guess and was working with Daryl Boston.  Bainesy worked with him in the spring.  I think Joey has a camp of some sort down in Miami that he spent a lot of time with (CAMP CORA STRIKES AGAIN).  I saw him this past weekend and he really looks good in the outfield and I just never thought that was going to happen.  His body is changing as well, which helps I think.  He's nice and slim and he's getting harder.  He's working hard, he's eating better.  I think that adds to the way he's moving.  Yes, I think he can play every day in the outfield in the major leagues.

JS: And offensively it seems like he's about ready to be called up.  Is that what you're seeing too?

BB: He can hit.  He's serious too.  He is serious about hitting and he is ready to hit every pitch.

 

That was the last question Buddy had time for, but that was perfectly okay.  Buddy is a great interview and I know that at least Colin and I both would enjoy getting a chance to sit and talk with him even semi-regularly if that somehow becomes an option.  Thanks for reading.

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